Subsidy removal: TUC presents list of demands to Tinubu

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The Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Sunday presented to the representatives of President Bola Tinubu, a list of demands to be met following the removal of petroleum subsidy.

Arising from the session at the presidential villa, Abuja on Sunday night, both parties agreed to meet again on Tuesday to give time to the President to consider the demands.

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Spokesman on the President’s side, Dele Alake, told correspondents after the meeting that the session was constructive.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was not represented at the meeting.

He affirmed that the demands put forward by the union were not impracticable but added that the president needed time to consider them.

While noting that the meeting would reconvene on Tuesday, Alake said government would look into the issue of minimum wage since the removal of subsidy has the immediate consequence of reducing the purchasing power of the people.

He announced that a tripartite committee would be set up to study all dynamics relating to the subsidy, assuring that by Tuesday, government would have something concrete to report.

Emerging from the meeting, Alake told reporters: “Well, as you all know, we had this reconvened meeting today as we promised you few days ago when we had the initial meeting with the Labour movement.

“We said we were going to reconvene today to keep the engagement on in order to diffuse the tension in the land as a result of the withdrawal of subsidy, which is a reality.

“Now, we are very happy to announced to Nigerians that this engagement has been very productive.

“The TUC that attended today’s meeting presented a list of demands and those demands we have studied and we are going to present to Mr President, for his consideration.

“But those demands we can announce to Nigerians that a lot of the items on the list, are not impracticable. What we need to do is to study the numbers very well.

Then, we have asked the TUC also to give us a leeway to consult very exhaustively and reconvene on Tuesday to actually look at the numbers, viability, practicability of all the items that have been presented to us.

“Now, most important and top priority on the list which the government is also looking at very seriously and the president has announced before, is the issue of the minimum wage which the Labour movement has demanded is the consequential impact of this removal of subsidy.

Mr President is most likely going to constitute a tripartite committee, that is a committee of the federal government, including the state and then the organised Labour and the private sector.

“Now, this is a tripartite arrangement, it will be a committee that will study all the dynamics of a wage increase in percentages, the numbers and the categories that will be affected.

“So, by Tuesday when we come back to reconvene to meet with the TUC again, we should have very concrete items to present to the world.

“But the most important thing for today is that we are making appreciable progress with the Labour.”

When asked to disclose the demands, the spokesman said: “It is a list but we are not going to be listing all of them now. The most important is the minimum wage, that is increase of minimum wage. Because, when this thing is removed, the argument of Labour is that there is an immediate impact on the workers, on the purchasing power because price of fuel has gone up.

“So, that will necessarily reduced the purchasing power of the average worker. So, the next thing of immediate consequence is to increase the purchasing power of the worker. So, that to me and to all of us on this side is the top most priority on the list.

“There are other things like the tax holidays which some categories of workers will be beneficiaries. But the most important is the minimum wage.”

On whether the team is also negotiating with the NLC, said  no, but that they are making efforts to reach the congress..

Alake explained: “No. We are not. but we are making efforts to reach NLC. We all agreed that we are going to meet here but again, in this game there are dynamics. Sometimes, they could be meeting with their own executives and not able to meet with us, or they could want to postpone or they have not actually articulated their list of demands as the TUC.

“But we cannot second guess why they are not here. But efforts are being made to reach them, we are not isolating them at all.”

On whether the meeting discussed the claim by one of Tinubu’s spokesmen, Bayo Onanuga’s claim that NLC was working for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the just concluded elections, Peter Obi, Alake declared: “No not at all. It has no relevance to the discussion on the concrete terms of the welfare of the workers.

“Our discussion was majorly on the welfare of workers, how to cushion the impact of this subsidy removal on workers that’s all. Not on any political partisanship.”

Also speaking, the President of TUC, Festus Osifo, affirmed that the union presented the list of demands to the government after consultation with its members.

He explained: “As will recall that we were all here on Wednesday last week and after the meeting, after the meeting of Wednesday, government gave us their position and told us the reason why they did what they did, but on our part we did not agree with them. So they presented  some of the things they considered as palliatives to us, that we should consider them in the meeting, but we told them no that we cannot consider them in that meeting, that we’re going back to call our respective organs.

“So, we went back, called the NEC of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria on Friday and during the NEC meeting, the NEC of TUC decided that because we already told government as at Wednesday that we’re taking their demands back, we want to go and look at them because they asked us for our demands, we said we didn’t have the mandate to discuss the mandates as at then.

“So we went back, we called our meetings on Friday, we had extensive deliberations and our NEC now mandated us with some lists of demands, to come and meet with the government side today. So the meeting we just concluded, we have detailed and marshalled out the list of our demands to them.

“They also in turn told us that when they presented the items to us on Wednesday we told them that we were going back to our principals, so they also need to touch base with Mr President so that we’ll reconvene this meeting again on Tuesday. Topmost in our demands was clearly stated, that for utmost good faith and in the interest of social dialogue, that they should revert to back the pump price while discussions continues.”